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Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

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Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

Postby DMcDonough » Wed Jun 04, 2003 2:58 pm

Hi. I took in an in law who was down on his luck and it turned out to be a disaster -- he ran up our bills, trashed the house, ate everything in sight without replacing items that we used as basic staples after gobbling them down, drank alcohol to excess and then passed out on our sofa at least 6 nights a week, brought illegal substances into our home, picked fights with us in front of our daughter, and laid around sleeping all day, not working, not looking for work, and not contributing anything. A couple of months ago, my spouse and I spoke to our relative, reminded him of the rules of the house, and asked him to get a job and pay some of the bills he ran up. He said he would. He did get a job (finally) but never paid the hundreds of dollars in phone bills that he ran up while staying with us. My husband spoke to him again and gave him copies of the phone bills, asked him to please pay the bill. (At no time did we threaten to throw this individual out on the street or even mention the word "eviction".) He said he'd pay up, but then disappeared. He packed a small knapsack of belongings and left for work one day, never to return. It has been 3 and a half weeks and we have not seen him -- he has not been back to the apartment at all, hasn't left a note, hasn't called, hasn't even checked his mail. We heard through the grapevine that he has moved in with a new girlfriend, but he has not said this to us and he hasn't returned the keys to our apartment or contacted us to retrieve the many personal belongings he left at the house.

Since he is gone nearly one month, is this abandonment? Can we change the locks or would this be considered an illegal eviction? We are thinking of just changing the locks and sending a note to him through one of his friends, saying that we figured he now has another place to live so we changed the locks, that he can't move back in if this new situation doesn't work out because he disrespected the rules of our house, and that we will hold on to his mail and belongings for 30 days and if he doesn't make any arrangements to get his stuff or tell us who else we should send it to for safekeeping, we will have to toss his stuff out and return his mail to the post office ("moved and left no forwarding address"). We didn't kick him out, the guy left and hasn't returned or contacted us in a month's time. Even with all the problems because he was family we did not toss him on the street or go to court for eviction papers, but since he has "disappeared", we don't want him to just stroll back into our apartment again several weeks from now (or whenever he and his new girlfriend have a fight or break up) and resume sponging off of us as if nothing ever happened and he never left.

This person was living with us for just under 6 months at the time of his "disappearance" and was not on the lease, and since he was only expected to be staying with us for about 2 months when we first agreed to let him sleep on the sofa, we never alerted our landlord to the fact that we had a roomate or a family member staying with us temporarily. We know he is alive and well because we've bumped into friends of his and they've said they have seen him. Also, while we used to receive several phone messages a day for him, his friends are no longer calling our house looking for him, backing up our impression that he is staying somewhere else and that everyone except us knows where to reach him.

Should we go to court to get eviction papers, or is it OK to change the locks and toss his stuff out if he doesn't show up in another month?

Even though the person owes us money in phone bills we are not interested in fighting with him in court or even informally to get the money back, even though we were used and disrespected, this person is still family and we are not going to further strain family relations by going back and forth in court for a measly $400 (it's measly in the scheme of things and family is worth more than $400). We just want our home back to the way it was.

Is there any advice anyone can give me? (other than "never take in a friend or relative who has no job and without signing a written agreement"?)
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Re: Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

Postby too trusting » Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:00 pm

I doesn't sound like you have a problem. He wasn't on the lease, you have nothing in writing etc. BY ALL MEANS CHANGE THE LOCKS IMMEDIATELY!!! Drug addicts tend to sneak back and steal when you're not home. Send something by certified mail letting him know to notify you if he wants his belongings and arrange a pickup or better yet drop them off at his place. Give him a date that you won't be responsible for the things, then if you have room or a basement, store them till whenever since he is family. Wash you hands of him and move on.
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Re: Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 04, 2003 6:27 pm

Well the original poster is not a tenant, but operating as a landlord - and this isn't landlord.net. But to answer the question and too trusting isn't really right on this. There are definite issues of abandonment and potential illegal lock changes. That said, all the indications are of abandonement if one accepts as true everything in the original post. One month might not be sufficient for deemed abandonement, but we advise the poster to research the issue on tenant.net and elsewhere - and possible get a legal consultation. If nothing else, a certified letter putting the relative on notice is a start. Whether or not the relative has any tenancy rights is another issue, but that goes hand-in-hand with issues of abandonment. As for the possessions, box them up and put them in the basement. Don't discard them until after notice and sufficient time has lapsed. Better be safe on this one.
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Re: Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

Postby too trusting » Thu Jun 05, 2003 1:21 pm

Please don't take this as disagreeing with you TenantNet but I don't understand how Diana is a LL if she only allowed a family member to stay with her until they got on their feet? She wasn't charging rent and only wanted long distance calls that they made to be paid for. How does that make her a LL?

I'm just trying to understand this myself considering I've helped friends in the past never knowing they could claim any rights as a tenant from me, of course that wasn't here in NY it was in KC.
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Re: Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

Postby jot0n0 » Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:22 pm

I would like back too trusting on changing the lock or at lease adding another lock to door. You don't know what a drug addict is capable of doing to get his is next fix and may discover one day all your possessions clean out while you're out or what unsavory “associates” he may bring home to your apt. If the issue of illegal lockout comes up, say lock was change/added because you lost your key and need to change the lock.

<small>[ June 05, 2003, 03:23 PM: Message edited by: John ]</small>
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Re: Squatter Laws/Abandonment/Illegal Eviction?

Postby eastsidah » Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:39 pm

The law is intended to protect the sub-tenant from being tossed out on whim by the prime-tenant just as it protects a prime tenant from being thrown out on a whim by their LL. That means that if a roommate has been in residence over thirty days then certain procedures must be followed to terminate their tenancy. Because of these restictions the prime tenant does assume a role similar to a LL in New York. People need to feel that their housing situation is somewhat stable and it wouldn't be fair to subject sub-tenants to the constant threat of being turned out at a moments notice. I'm not sure, but I don't think remuneration is required for a roommate to assume the position of sub-tenant vs. guest.
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